It’s not the food people remember. It’s the decor. The Forum was a bright Art Deco masterpiece, opening in 1930 to give the city what it needed: glamour, escapism and cheap eats.
It probably wasn’t the quietest place to dine. A cafeteria is a noisy joint at noon. The clatter of dishes, the clink of forks, ladles banging the bottom of metal pans — all the sounds were amplified by the hard surfaces, lancing through the hubbub of conversation. In its early years, it was just as loud — but for a different reason. The Forum was built in the shell of the Strand movie theater. (Well, the Saxe — it opened in 1914, and the German-sounding name soon became unpopular.) The Strand declined to refit for talkies, and went bust in 1928. The Forum kept the theater’s facade — which had nothing to do with the Moderne style inside — but no one turned down cheap pie because of architectural inconsistencies.
The Forum closed in 1975. When the building was demolished for City Center, the interior was saved and reinstalled behind a charmless mirror-glass facade. The space has seen tenants come and go; perhaps some day a fragment of their crockery will turn up. But they’ll never evoke the same memories as the Forum.
P.S. In 1981, a StarTribune article noted that the exterior had been dismantled and stored, in case anyone wanted to put it back up. Obviously, no one did. Downtown’s a bit duller for its loss.